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Service Beyond Self -- Another Look at Annual College Rankings

Taylor Stockdale
Beginning in 2005, the Washington Monthly began publishing an annual issue devoted to college rankings of a new type—a ranking based on public good, or more specifically what colleges and universities are “doing for the country.” This project by Washington Monthly is meant to be, I believe, a kind of antidote or argument against the ranking program promoted by U.S. News & World Report—one in which enormous weight is given endowment wealth, admission selectivity, and the research productivity of school faculty rather than their skill with and attention to teaching undergraduate students. Over the years I’ve followed it with great interest, and indeed have been pleased to see it gaining in readership and popularity.

As you can read for yourself in WM, the editors believe “public good” is defined by or demonstrated in three categories… “Social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).” Perhaps this last category means the most to me—and certainly it speaks to the mission of The Webb Schools directly—to “Serve with a generous spirit.”

Looking through this lens, though you still find Stanford, Harvard and MIT near the top, you also find such remarkable learning communities as Harvey Mudd College (ranked #2)—yet just below Berea College in Kentucky (ranked #1 with 85% of students receiving Pell Grants)—a fascinating college devoted to serving first-generation college students, as well as lower-income students. Also near the top, Pomona College, Davidson College, Knox College and more.

My hope is that everyone connected to Webb (alumni, parents and friends) will take a look at this ranking program in the Washington Monthly and consider the importance of the project—to look beyond merely what a college can do for one individual to what a college (or school for that matter) can do for a country, our country.

Taylor Stockdale is the Head of Schools to The Webb Schools. Webb's college placement lists are available on our website here.

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